August 5, 2012: I am taking a brief sit-down on the front porch this morning, looking out across an empty lake at gray sky, grayer water and a slice of dark spruce that divides the two. Billy Bear sits next to me on the wicker. His white face reflects pretty much the same gloom that haunts me this morning. For Bear, this rainy day holds precious little promise for outdoor play – no searching for minnows under the dock, no stalking birds by the bear bait bin. Sad ehough, because for this hunter, out-side is the right side.
I think forlornly about our anglers who are strung out across this watershed, battened down in raingear searching the currents for dreams. For their sake, I try to wish the rain away. (Little chance.) OK, then, I’ll settle for the deluge to subside a bit. And if refuses to cooperate one iota, could it at least bring on a hatch or some other event to stir the appetites of the brook trout?
“Helplessly hoping,” as Steve Stills sung it.
This is August month, ‘the pretty month’, or so I often tell folks. Yes, the fishing gets a bit more technical and yes, the catch rate isn’t quite up to June and July. But you get to enjoy the Labrador “summer” – lovely flowers, ripening berries, neon-bright brookies and prettier weather.
Prettier weather? Right! Looked out the window lately?
The dreary dwelling on rain leaves. Now fly-fishing is gnawing at me. Whew! Talk about a complex subject. My experiences here confirm that the hatches wane by August, yet over at Indian Rapids, the trout are rising all day showing both dun and emerger forms as they dine. The last couple of anglers there did not find the right fly despite “going through their entire fly box”. Yesterday morning Kev announces that Rob and Owen are headed that way. I am thrilled. “These two Irish fellows,” I say under my breath, “will definitely solve the puzzle.” Both men are very skilled fly anglers. Word from the guides is that they meticulously dissect the waters one cubic foot at a time. They’re graceful, stealthful, creative and deliberate. They cast a tidy line. “These boys will figure it out,” I speak up to the camp with dripping self-assurance.
The rain is coming in buckets now and I abandon the porch to sit beside the cook lodge’s wood stove. Bear hops down, shakes off the splatter, then follows and drops at my feet like a bag of bones. He’s not much more than bones and hair. The cold lake water where he spends most every morning sucks more calories out than I can shove in.
I’ve watched this corner of the wilderness for fifteen years now. Not that long ago, I thought my experiences here were rich enough to have assimilated some simple, basic patterns – weather trends (by month, at least), mayfly hatch highs and lows, trout movement. Maybe not that scientific, but at least I felt I had gathered a few solid hunches.
I remember how my mom often scolded me, “Take off the rose-colored glasses.” Maybe she was right. Moms often are. Perhaps I do too often see only the bright side and not the dark. But what the hell, its bright, isn’t it? Don’t know about you, but I see bright a lot better than dark.
But I need more than hunches. I need answers. Year-round I get questions – hundreds of questions – from roving fly anglers who have penned two stars by their bucket list entry called “Labrador”. And they want good answers as badly as I want to give them. They deserve good answers, accurate ones. A fishing trip to Labrador is a significant commitment – not one to be steered or influenced by trifling BS.
(At 10:20 am, the phone rings. By the time I lift the receiver, Kev has answered the call on the phone in his camp. I hear Uncle Ned, our senior guide, call for the float-plane. He’s with a nice Texas couple for the day, fishing over on our Second Rapids. The lady wants to return to camp. She’s cold and wet. My mood deepens.)
I now resign myself to the whims of the wilderness, beaten down somewhat like a wet dog. There are no weather patterns. Who knows when and if the hatches will come off. Hell, the flowers bloomed three weeks early this year. And the cloudberries that we usually enjoy during our final week of August ripened in mid-July. The songbirds, normally on their way south before the berries are plump, ate them all.
No jam this year.
Rob and Owen returned last night. Shut out! That’s right, shut-the-f#*k-out! (Well, Owen did pull in one four-pounder with a big double bunny). Having given it their best shot, they never rose a fish. Robert later admitted that when he closed his eyes last night, all he could see was the movement of flowing water. He had studied the riffles so intently and for so long that the watery image was burned into his optic nerve.
“I’ve been wrong before and I’ll be there again. I don’t have all the answers, my friend.” (N. Young)
The rain is slamming the metal roof now causing such a racket that I can’t answer the phone even if I could hear it ring. Bear moves slowly to lie in front of the fireplace. The pelting rain drowns even the crackling of the spruce fire.
The flames seem to slap me in the face. I have it!
My answer. (OK, at least for this miserable day. I reserve the option to reorganize thoughts at some point in the future.)
If you come to Three Rivers Lodge in western Labrador, here’s what you’re gonna find;
¨ Your cozy cabin with a woodstove (beside which you can hang your wet clothes), a warm shower and a comfy bed
¨ great food, at least three times a day
¨ a caring, capable guide for each day on the water. Speaks English (kind of).
¨ an experienced team of Newfies to accommodate most every need
¨ Six and ½ days fly fishing on rivers that hold trophy brook trout
¨ AND, we’ll get you back to camp safely each evening
So what about the weather? Well, you can carve this into stone. Temps vary from 40*F to 88*F. It rains, snows, or shines ALL the time. The wind blows most every day, often very hard.
And the fishing? We have big, Labrador brook trout. Lots of them. They’re in the rivers. We’ll take you there.
Go get ‘em, b’y!